My wife Elizabeth and I spent a semester in Israel for a study-abroad during our undergraduate at the Master’s University. Very few experiences in my life can compete with this breathtaking semester where I saw the land of the Bible and walked where our Lord Jesus Christ walked during His earthly ministry.
We embarked on various excursions in order to help us internalize truth from Scripture. One of these adventures was a hike up the Mount of Olives. As I climbed up the ancient hill, I recalled the Scripture that recounts our Lord Jesus ascent into Heaven after His resurrection from this very mount (Acts 1:9-12). After His ascent, the gazed into sky. His disciples were then approached by two men dressed in white clothing. These men, probably angels, informed the disciples that this was not Jesus’ last encounter with this mountain. One day, He will come back to this very mountain. As I continued walking up the steep path of this mountain, my mind reminisced on the numerous passages in which mountains surface throughout God’s Word.
Before we arrived in Israel, we were educated on many theological themes throughout the Bible. It was an inspiring college professor, Dr. Abner Chou, who paved the way in our knowledge of Scripture by tracing the theme of the mountain of God in the Bible. A theme that runs from the Garden of Eden, to Mount Sinai and finally to Jerusalem on the Mount of Olives.
I’ve always been fascinated by running water. From gentle streams to raging rivers, there is an aesthetic quality to taking a moment out of the day to listen, watch, and rest. Stagnant water is usually not so pleasing. I grew up about twenty minutes from Huntington Beach, California, where I often enjoyed soothing sounds of the waves crashing on the shore of the Pacific Ocean. This pleasing experience was always followed by the stench of a local marsh filled with a still body of water surrounded by level land. This marsh didn’t have a tide to move the water, and it wasn’t on a mountain where water could flow down. This marsh was far from a tranquil experience of paradise! Eden, on the other hand, had a river that flowed from it. “Now a river flowed out of Eden to water the garden” (Gen. 2:10). This is our first stop in the biblical journey tracing the theme of the mountain of God. God’s first mountain was in paradise. On this mountain, in paradise, mankind enjoyed unadulterated worship with God. But then, because of Adam’s sin, mankind was removed from the Garden of Eden, from the mountain of God. Mankind was separated from God’s presence relationally and physically. Paradise, in every aspect was lost.
God picks up on this need for paradise to be restored in the book of Exodus. The LORD (Yahweh) reveals His name to Moses in Exodus 3. Yahweh means “I am who I am.” Yahweh then tells Moses that He will bring Israel out of Egypt and they will worship Him on a mountain. We actually learn about who Yahweh is in this context. Yahweh is the God who delivers His people from bondage to worship Him, to have communion with them, to restore the relational paradise that lost in the Garden of Eden. Christ declared “it is finished” on the cross because He restored our relationship with God. He is the mediator between God and man because He is both completely God and completely man. As the eternal preexisting God, He took on human flesh and died for this very purpose. He reconciled us to God by His blood.
But wait, mankind also enjoyed God’s presence in the Garden on that mountain from which the river flowed. That means there must be a mountain that awaits us, there must a paradise restored. This is exactly what Scripture promises by the prophet Zechariah. In this passage, the LORD, Yahweh Himself, descends on a mountain.
“Then the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations, as when He fights on a day of battle. In that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives will be split in its middle from east to west by a very large valley, so that half of the mountain will move toward the north and the other half toward the south.” (Zech. 14:3-4).
Looking down from unto the modern-day Temple Mount, a Muslim mosque sits on top of where God’s temple belongs. Jesus flipped the tables of the money changers during His earthly ministry of His first coming exclaiming that the temple is His Father’s House and that they have made it a den of thieves. Should this Muslim mosque still be standing on temple mount where His temple belongs, it will not bode well with those who reject Him and worship the false god Allah. This would be a shameful moment for them to realize that they have worshiped the wrong god and have profaned the real God. This analogy goes further, since the Holy Spirit dwells in us we are temples of God. Therefore, we be motivated to obey Him out of a heart that loves Him and repent of sin so that we will not be ashamed at His coming (1 John 2:28).
God’s Word is filled with many more wonderful promises surrounding God’s mountain. In Isaiah 2, God’s suffering faithful people are encouraged that one day the LORD Himself will reign from this mountain and that all people will stream up the mountain. Instead of water flowing down God’s mountain, the people of God will stream up to worship before Him.
As we gaze upon the towering mountains in this beautiful state of Alaska, we should be reminded of the future mountain of God. Our loving Savior will step His foot on that mountain one day. We will stand before Him and enjoy fellowship with our God face to face because He has redeemed us. We may not all be able to the mount of Olives while we wait for Christ’s return. But if we are in Christ, we will be there one day and it will be bigger, better and our Lord Jesus Christ will be there. May we live in light of the mountain of God.